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Saturday, July 06, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Tony, as usual, QP covers all the bases--you at the huge Mall Fourth of July celebration, me at the small town parade. Glad you got to see Aretha in all her glory!

The golden age of baseball seems further away than ever now with the passing of Ted Williams. I was too young to have seen him play, even in his last seasons, but he made a tremendous impression on me as a youth from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. I wanted a Ted Williams glove and bat ... and, if I'd been interested in fishing, a Ted Williams rod and reel. I was a baseball fan when he took over as manager of the Washington Senators, but that was ultimately a disappointment. Great players seldom make great managers. Williams represents another era. Can anyone imagine one of the steroid juiced players of today going off to fight in Afghanistan? There's no telling what Williams might have accomplished if he hadn't given five years to the military in WWII and Korea, but his service meant so much more to the country than the 150 or more homers he would have hit.

I'm still waiting on Josh Marshall to deliver on the damaging revelations about President Bush's business ties that he promised on July 2nd. If that anecdote about Army Secretary Tom White is all he's got, then his efforts to totally discredit Bush and the Republicans will be met with a shrug.

NBC Nightly News did a piece last night on Senator Joe Lieberman and how he's "deeply conflicted" about whether to seek the Democratic nomination if Al Gore does. Lieberman didn't look too conflicted to me. I think he ought to stick to his promise. If Al Gore hadn't picked Lieberman as his running mate, the Connecticut Senator is a second tier prospect for 2004, like about six others Democrats. If Al Gore picks Senator Bob Graham of Florida as his 2000 running mate, Gore is President right now.

It's Anniversary Week at Dodd's always entertaining Caption Contest. Get those entries in to celebrate a truly "Iron Man" blogging effort--the 53d consecutive week of wacky photos. The 52nd week's contest ended in a whimper for Refuge entrants. JulieC had four strong contenders and Dan's entry was fraught with meaning. "Rags" decided to use the contest to compare my still developing beard to Yasser Arafat's stubble. I'm crushed. My entries, full of political and literary allusions, again failed to move the whimsical judge. It looks like pop culture and Madison Avenue are the tickets to victory, so consider that a "tip" as you try to win this prestigious competition. There's a real prize involved!

Friday, July 05, 2002

A Hot Time Was Had By All

Tony Adragna
All who decided to attend, that is.

Yes, I did something that I rarely do -- I attended an event on The Mall.

It didn't seem as crowded as in past years, at least that was my impression after comparing what I saw on the rebroadcast to what I remember from my normal viewing. But, I don't think that "the threat" was a major contributing factor for attendance being off. In my opinion, the weather was more of a concern -- heat index over 100 and Code Orange on the air quality.

I took plenty of bottled water (peach flavoured sparklig stuff that I get at the 7-11 before getting on the train), and my lungs are quite used to a hostile "air quality" environment (I smoke like a chimney).

Despite all the talk about what a nightmare the security checkpoints were going to be, I had no problems. Of course, I got down to The Mall very early so that I could annex myself a prime location for viewage of the concert.

Truth be told, I wasn't there for any particularly patriotic reasons (my hometown parade woulda been better for that), or to flaunt "the threat"(risk doesn't worry me, but the day I get scared of thugs is the same day I might as well stop living): I just wanted to see Aretha Franklin sing "Highway of Love". Well, I got to see her -- all of her! I didn't realize just how B I G Sister 'Retha has gotten over the years. She came out wearing a white dress and I coulda sworn that she was trying to portray the Capital Dome!!!

She can still sang, though -- that's all that matters...

"Twas, as usual, a good production. But, I'm sure that I woulda had more fun cheering on the Rolling Liberty Girls...

So, OK, I did get caught up in the flag waving and singing of patriotic songs -- nothing wrong with that, just so long as we know what true patriotism is all about...

Thursday, July 04, 2002
Breaking News: The Rolling Liberty Girls won huge ribbons for their costumes and decorated scooters in the Brandermill Fourth of July Parade. They're thrilled--and they threw all the candy, except for the yellow taffy that my daughter likes. She hung on to those.

QP on the Fourth

Will Vehrs
Tony, what's on for the Fourth of July? I know how you love small town parades--I'm off soon to ours. My daughter and a friend will be riding their red, white and blue festooned scooters in the parade. I'll follow the parade route on foot, making sure they drink water and are resupplied with candy. Gettng to throw candy at the spectators seems to be the big attraction for these seven year olds ....

Happy Fourth to QP readers everywhere--honor America on this day!

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

"Christianity is harmful to animals"

Tony Adragna
Gotta love this guy's response to Peter Singer.

If he [Fr. Sibley] was my parish priest, I'd go to Mass everyday!!!

Too Damned Many Kennedy-Hyphenateds

Tony Adragna
Why don't I enthusiastically support KKT?

I suppose that I still resent the implication that the only reason Glendening won in '94 was because a "Kennedy" was on the ticket with him -- as if Glendening's CV wasn't good enough. The former PG County executive was well known and highly regarded prior to the '94 primary, and none of the Democrat contenders got close in the primary.

KKT's only claim to fame is her name, and I don't think that she would have been a contender this time around if it hadn't been for Glendening setting her up -- you know, like presidents set up their VPs as successors -- and the fact that there isn't a county exec running against her.

That's my other sore spot -- she hasn't come up through the ranks of county politics. The real tension in Maryland politics isn't between the two parties, but between the counties over their fair share of money from the state coffers (especially when it comes to money for schools). If you don't know county politics in Maryland, then I don't see how you can succeed in statewide office.

I'm not saying that KKT doesn't know anything about county politics -- she's no dummy, has an avocation toward politics (going back to her unseccessful '86 run against Ehrlich's predecessor), and has undoubtedly learned a lot from Glendening.

But, I'm skeptical of her ability to perform the task of balancing state-wide goals and parochial interests.

Wanna Trade?

I'll trade you as many Kennedy-Hyphenateds as it will take to equal one Mark Warner...

Read All of Today's WaPo Op-Eds

Some good stuff there -- especially a good argument about why the voucher decision doesn't get us over the hump, and a thoughtful expression of thanks from somebody born in Warsaw 89 years ago.

I take only minor exception with Sleaze and the Slump -- I concur completely in Samuelson's theme that the downturn in the market and some business failures are an inevitable function of over-investment and excess capacity/inventory (fueled in no small measure by expectations that very real high consumption/investment trends could be maintained).

Where I disagree with Samuelson is his willingness to discount the impact of questionably ethical behavior in the set up to wildly inflated stock prices and excess investment in the market. At some point your average non-Street savvy investor was sold a bill of goods by somebody who knew that the merchandise wasn't worth the price. The question I pose is: How long has this been going on?

Was the market ever worth what the analysts wanted us to believe?

And let's not forget that the problems in these companies weren't precipitated by the sluggish economy -- the funny math goes back well into the "boom period" accounting, and was meant to hide things that investors, lenders, and the public in general had a right to know at the time. We shouldn't be finding these things out years later and only after we all started questioning everybody in the wake of Enron -- if not for that collapse and the resulting scrutiny, would we have found out about the "sleaze" in other places?

Yes, Robert, what happened was inevitable under the circumstances. But, the circumstances weren't inevitable...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Maryland Politics Tony, the reason I came back to Maryland politics is that I continue to be blown away by your failure, as a Democrat, to pay homage to the Kennedy magic and the flamekeeper with the most potential, Lt Gov Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Most Democrats, because of the Kennedy connection, would probably vote for Michael Skakel if he were on the ballot ....

Kennedy Townsend is going to win, of course, and will be mentioned as possible presidential running mate in '04 and either an ideal running mate in '08 or a plausible candidate herself. I don't know much about her running mate, Admiral Larson, but I was fascinated by Mickey Kaus's suggestion that Larson was a stalking horse a John McCain party switch to the Democrats.

I'll tell you why the end to court-ordered busing in PG County hasn't gotten any notice: Maryland and PG County aren't really considered "the South." A story with a racial angle usually has to be in the South for the media to pay attention.

A "Sister Souljah" Moment in VA Here in Richmond, Tony, our Democratic Governor, Mark Warner, had a "Sister Souljah" moment yesterday. He was signing an order mandating that state agencies buy more from minority-owned businesses. A leader of a black farmer organization, John Boyd, confronted the Governor. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch story:

Black farmers have gotten nothing from the state, Boyd said. "The Virginia Department of Agriculture has not done a single program for African-American farmers," he said.

Boyd confronted Warner about the lack of procurement opportunities for farmers, and the governor stood his ground.

He reminded Boyd that he had asked him to develop a plan to expand state business with farmers, and Boyd still hadn't produced one. He would be glad to consider it, the governor said.

Good for Warner.

Oh, Please How trite is another list of play on word drug names? Maureen Dowd goes to that well this morning and it's almost embarassing. She doesn't do anything to dispell the notion that the New York Times editorial page is not only hopelessly slanted, but also proactively partisan. She jumps on the Paul Krugman bandwagon by repeating charges he made yesterday about President Bush's 1989 Harken Energy deal. Bush was asked about those charges yesterday and they obviously got under his skin.

Let's all enjoy this latest round of recriminations and the politics of personal destruction, brought to you by the folks who bitterly denounced it when they saw it being used against President Clinton.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

She Got It By Default!

Tony Adragna
So, OK, I was wrong 'bout KKT -- I still prefer Martin O'Malley. If he, or Doug Duncan, had decided to run, then I think KKT's prospects would be different.[Duh! -- I meant to assert that she wouldn't have stood a chance]

I am pleased with KKT's running mate -- maybe Admiral Larson will be able to clean up political Annapolis the same way that he cleaned up his last posting in that city [for those who don't remember, Larson is the USNA Super who restored honor to the acadamy in the wake of that cheating scandal].

Doesn't matter to me who the Democrat nominee is, anyway -- I've decided to vote for Spear Lancaster

Hey, what's my single Dem vote gonna matter anyhow -- this is Maryland, where William Donald Schaefer will always have a job.!

My only real concern in re the upcomming election is about the new touch-screen voting system (not sure if it's going to be in all counties this cycle, but PG is definitely using it). My experience with touch-screens -- dealing with those damned "Customer Banking Center" machines when I worked for Citibank -- leaves me skeptical. The screens get dirty really fast [all the oil from fingertips], and then the sensors start acting funny. And older people kinda don't like 'em.

We'll see -- there may be some problems recording votes correctly (rather, some people will have a problem properly casting the vote that they want recorded), but the results won't be anywhere near close enough to precipitate The Court needing to step in again...

I'm trying to figure out what's going on in the PG county races -- haven't gotten anything in the mail. Wayne Curry is term-limited out of his job, and I don't know anything about the current crop of contenders 'cept that Riddick is a Glendening crony...

Addendum: By the way, since we're talking about PG County, and we've recently discussed education & the courts, I've got a question: How come the recent end to court ordered bussing in PG County (the court declared that PG schools are finally no longer segregated) hasn't gotten much notice?

Tweaking Tony

Will Vehrs
Hey Tony, you know how I hate to "tweak" you just for sport, but I really was wondering why you haven't opined on the Maryland Governor's race. The two tickets are now set for the fall campaign--how does it look from your political base in Prince Georges County?

I seem to remember you discounting my predictions about Kathleen Kennedy Townsend ... you're not sore about that, are you?

And no fair scurrying to find any wrongheaded predictions of mine in the archives ....

I Am, As I Ever Am, Hopeful

Tony Adragna
You're right, as usual, Will! I've used that phrase above so many times that I oughta change my middle name to "Hope" ('cept, I like "Joseph Patrick Francis"). Of course, we're hoping that the strategy works, and I was thinking especially of the news news story in yesterday's WaPo that picked on both Harvey Pitt and Halliburton.

Sure, the Prez is trying to distance himself from the abusive practices of his former colleagues in the business world. But, if the VP is directly implicated in anything even appearing to be scandalous at Hilliburton, that spells trouble for the GOP.

Remember: In politics it isn't about reality -- it's all about perception...

The Changing Face of News Stories

Related to your observation about the sports pages -- I was watching a panel discussion on CSPAN last night on the topic of religion reporting. Religion stories have moved off the religion page and into the "A" section. But something somebody said piqued my interest -- almost every story has a religion angle vis a vis the "morality" angle. So true...

Time Will Tell, Tony

Will Vehrs
At least David Brooks had polling data to support his position. Mark Shields, you, and other keepers of the Democratic Party flame are relying on hope right now. I note that Andrew Sullivan was out ahead of me on seeing problems for Democrats in taking advantage of the business scandals as a defining issue.

It's certainly possible that this situation will turn and begin favoring Democrats. Exposure of any Cheney chicanery at Halliburton would hurt the Administration. Paul Krugman is doing his damndest for the cause--today he revives the old Bush Harken Energy story to try and discredit Bush's reaction to the current scandals. Krugman would probably scream at anyone who mentioned Whitewater in connection with the current state of business ethics ....

Time will tell, Tony, if it's a wash for your a**. Meet me in November and we'll see who controls Congress and, just maybe, what national issues were critical to that result. Hey, you now have a chance to grab J.C. Watts' seat in Oklahoma. You should be ecstatic.

On a totally different topic, I was looking over the back page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch sport section this morning. They have a little collection of wire reports called "Briefly." Here are some of those headlines:

JMU Quarterback Stabbed
Syracuse Football Recruit Killed
Man Killed at Player's Home

Additionally, former Denver Bronco Mike Harden was sentenced for defrauding and stealing from an acquaintance and an 18 year old University of Miami recruit pleaded not guilty to armed robbery with a firearm.

I think it's sad that the sports pages are no longer a respite from the cares of the world.

Monday, July 01, 2002

"Wash" My A**!!!

Tomy Adragna
I very much disagree, Will (I disagreed when I heard David say it, too -- I am, of course, in Mark's corner).

I've previously pointed out how Chairman Leavitt did yoeman's work trying to get reform of the accounting industry, only to have his efforts spoiled by congress -- the GOP was in charge at the time.

Both Dan Quayle and Bill Clinton identified excessive executive compensation as a problem during Clinton's first presidential campaign. Clinton actually tried to do something about the problem during his administration -- attempts that were pooh-poohed by conservatives.

The arguments are going to be made, and specifics cited -- whether the arguments have merit, and regardless of the fact that an Al Gore administration wouldn't have been able to stop the market from sliding, is unimportant -- and voters are going to buy the rhetoric.

The Dems are gonna pull out the stopper, and the GOP is goin' down da drain...

By the way -- what the economy is going through right now is classic at the end of a boom that shoulda never been. We've been through it before...

Tony, The Economy Is A Wash

Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm with the sainted David Brooks on this one. As he said on Friday's News Hour, we have all sorts of conventional wisdom conditions for a Republican meltdown, but there's no significant decline in the President's approval rating and no sign that voters are blaming Republicans.

I don't see that dynamic changing, despite the onslaught of ads the Dems will put up to try and pin all woes to the GOP.

Here's why it won't work: Bill Clinton. Clinton's signature success--the booming economy--plays a role in these scandals and the voters aren't stupid. (I'm not blaming Clinton for these scandals.) If a Democrat in boom times (when a lot of this started) couldn't see and control these corporate shenanigans, how could a Republican during an economic slow down? And, furthermore, Clinton's fundraising excesses and lack of high moral code forever tarred the Democrats with the same brush they used so successfully for so long against Republicans.

Bush and the Republicans have been careful to mind the economy and people's insecurities, in contrast to Bush 41.

So, Tony, the corporate scandals and the economy are a wash in my book. The GOP hangs on to its current tiny majority and the Senate is up in the air. I don't see either party taking the Senate by more than two votes; it's too early to pick winners and losers in Senate races.

It's The Economy, Again, Stupid

Tony Adragna
Will, I don't wanna talk about the voucher issue anymore -- we both know what that's about. The recent Court ruling makes clear that such programs are constitutional, but it's still a tough sell to voters.

I'd rather resume our signature debate -- who gets political traction on the state of the economy.

Came across a Roll Call piece by More-tawn from last July -- everybody got this whole trifecta thing totally out of context: the three things Mr. Bush needed as of that date were a good stock market, a good economy, and a defining moment.

Mr. Bush got his defining moment -- I'll stipulate [because, I sincerely believe it to be so] that he would have preferred his defining moment to be anything but that moment. But, he's still facing a struggling economy that's being dragged down by the stock market just as surely as an undertow will overwhelm a swimmer.

I've suggested before that the market needs psycho analysts -- I stand by that suggestion, but offer one that is complimentary: the hypochondriacs were so worried about perceived illnesses that they totally missed the symptoms of a real disease.

Now the patient's family is has caught on -- the doctor was so wrong for so long that the vast majority of opinion holds that the doctor is, and always has been, a quack.

I don't see recovery for the market or the economy near the surface of my crystal ball -- definitely not before the midterms, and maybe not even until well into the next cycle.

Am I being to [pessimistic]?

We'll wait and see what comes of the book review that the Big Four seem to be engaged in [nobody has come right out and said that it's happening, but I'll wager a dime against a piece of WorldCom that everybody's books are getting a second look, and it's going to be a most revealing introspection].

To the extent that "big business" is still perveived to have "too much influence in his administration", Mr. Bush and the GOP are gonna have a hard time selling themselves at election time -- if you can't get elected, then your agenda is worthless...

I know, I know -- the CW about "safe seats"(the loss of for Dems in certain redistricting plans) and incumbancy notwithstanding, I think the Democrats have a good chance of widening the margin in the Senate, and retaking the House.

'Course, I may be trying to sell a half-baked lasgana, but when that the best you got...

Ripping Gore, or Letting Gore Rip

Will Vehrs
Lots of questions about Al Gore for Howard Kurtz's Media Backtalk in today's Washington Post. Here's the one I asked, and the reply:

Richmond, Va: Why do you think Al Gore hasn't made an appearance on "Meet the Press" or other Sunday talk shows yet? Will that be the real indicator that he is serious about running again?

Howard Kurtz: Gore has only recently emerged from his self-imposed isolation by making some speeches and criticizing the Bush administration. He doesn't yet want to raise his profile to Sunday-morning dimensions. Besides, he knows that Russert or Donaldson or Schieffer would badger him about whether he's running and he wants to put off that decision until early next year. Since Gore can get as much press as he wants by occasionally speaking out (and not taking questions from reporters), from his vantage point there's little to be gained by doing the Sunday-interview thing.

Of course, while Gore avoids the press, Edwards and Kerry go under Russert's sometimes unsparing spotlight and hone their message. It's hard to say whether Gore benefits from his low-profile strategy or is setting himself up for problems when he finally does agree to a sit down and gets bombarded all at once with the contradictions and tough questions.

There's an excellent Breakfast Table exchange on Gore in Slate today, including a remarkable observation that Gore's weekend remarks about being in thrall to his handlers is eerily similar to a passage from Earth in the Balance.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, I wish Condi had said that, too, but despite Tom Friedman's slam, there is still a bit of diplomacy in the Bush arsenal. I think the implication is there--the Palestinians cannot participate in any "peace process" until they have a leadership that does not rely solely on terror, a leadership that will negotiate in good faith. Elect someone else and we'll try to work with that leader. Elect Arafat, or let him call the shots in some other capacity, and we won't. End of story. It's a stark policy, but a lot of other "softer" policies have been tried and failed.

The News Hour I didn't see that Washington Journal article, but I think The News Hour is essential to supplement the major networks' news. I don't know that they are "unbiased," but they sure present more nuance and depth on stories than we'll ever see on the big media outlets. You know I love "Shields and Brooks." If only they would bring back Stuart Taylor ....

Vouching for Mickey Tony, be sure to check out the latest kausfiles. This guy is good. As usual, he lets all the conventional wisdom sweep over him, then presents his own contrarian analysis. He's done it this time with the voucher decision. I liked this bit of brutal honesty:

Do you see urban school systems across America revitalizing themselves in the absence of competition from school choice? I don't. Meanwhile, education becomes more and more important for economic success.

Case Closed? If you like to hope that murders, and especially serial killings, eventually get solved, you might want to check out this story on the suicide of a suspect in a Florida kidnapping case. A search of his home is yielding tantalizing clues that he might have been the serial killer of young women who stalked an area between Washington, DC and Richmond a few years ago.

Blogospheric Cooling? Will the Blogosphere (a term coined by Bill Quick, as we all know) shut down for the vacation of its most prolific organism, Glenn Reynolds, aka "Instantman?" Will someone step into the breach?

Sunday, June 30, 2002

To Arafat Or Not To Arafat...

Tony Adragna
Will, I wish that Condi had just come right out and said: Look, they have a right to elect whoever they want, and we have a right not to deal with that person if we don't want to.

In a way, I agree with both Biden and Hagel (yes, a member of the GOP also had some criticism of Mr. Bush's latest iteration on the ME). Focusing on Arafat is problematic to the extent that singling him out leaves an appearance of wiggle room for somebody who isn't Arafat, but might as well be. That, quite obviously, isn't the administrations intent.

The goal, of course, is to set the Palestinians up for a fundamental change, akin to what we went through 226 years ago. Changing the Palestinian administration doesn't simply mean getting rid of Arafat -- it means throwing off the tyranny that Palestinians have been subject to under their own leadersahip.

I disagree emphatically with Biden when he suggests that Arafat in some type of ceremonial position might be acceptable. It's gonna be hard enough to disengage Arafat The Party Boss from the mechanism that wants to steer the Palestinians toward a real state -- giving Arafat even a ceremonial position would be counter to that goal.


I don't remember which show it was on, but Dick Thornburgh made the same point I did about the illogic of disallowing the Cleveland voucher plan -- taken to it's logical conclusion, that dissent would disallow government financial aid in higher education where the school is run by a religious organization.

Of course, the dissenting justices would argue that their decision doesn't reach that far because they've already distinguished between the coercion of young children versus the free choice of adults. But, the opponents of the voucher program are saying "no government money to religious institutions[period]", and that's an argument that in principle would extend to higher education.

I think you and me and George Will have figured out what the debate is really all about, though. Sorry, it's not about "anti-establishement": it's all about establishment -- maintaining the status quo ante in the education establishment.

Do I need to remind how I feel about unions?

Pat & Mike Each Had An Apple...

Accounting for mergers as "growth"
Tony Adragna
Let's say we have two companies with 1000 clients each, and each client generates $100 in revenue per month. Business A buys business B. Suddenly, business A has twice as many clients and twice as much revenue. Is this growth?

Well, it is and it isn't.

See, both of the businesses were public corporations with shareholders. Depending on how the transaction went down, some, maybe even all, of the shareholders saw their investment grow.

Look at business A's sudden increase in revenue, market share, and stock value, and it looks like the place to put your money. Problem is, looking at those factors without taking into consideration the fact that the transaction really didn't create any new revenue or bring in new clients -- the only good definition of "growing the business" -- is misleading.

The worst part of what happened in the WorldCom scenario is that shareholders may have been intentionally mislead -- by WorldCom executives and by stock analysts [this is an interesting revelation: a lot of analysts -- including Jim Cramer, who I watch every night -- are admitting their duplicity].

WaPo has a good story on how the End of Its Merger Run Led to WorldCom's Fall

A General Consenus On Bias-Free News

Tony Adragna
Will, did you see the Washington Journal piece the other day featuring the Newshour gang?

Seems that every caller I heard praised the Newshour as the only place on television to get fair, unopinionated, balanced news

Take that FOX!!!

Punditwatch Is Back!

Will Vehrs
Whither Arafat? Whither Corporate America? Those were the questions the pundits faced this weekend and it's covered in Punditwatch.

World Cup Soccer apparently had something to do with This Week being pre-empted in my area. A 2-0 Brazil win probably was about the same amount of action as I would have seen on their roundtable.